Oscars: New Zealand Selects 'The Dead Lands' as Foreign-Language Candidate

The Dead Lands Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival

The Dead Lands Still - H 2014

Toa Fraser’s fourth feature was well received at Toronto where it screened as a special selection

Toa Fraser’s The Dead Lands (Hautoa) is New Zealand’s entry for best foreign-language film at the 87th Academy Awards, the New Zealand Film Commission said Friday.

The action adventure, filmed entirely in the Maori language of Te Reo, is an official U.K.- New Zealand co-production. It tells the story of Hongi (James Rolleston), a Maori chieftain's teenage son, who must avenge his father's murder in order to bring peace and honor to the souls of his loved ones. Vastly outnumbered by the band of villains, Hongi's only hope is to pass through the feared and forbidden Dead Lands and forge an uneasy alliance with the mysterious "Warrior," a ruthless fighter who has ruled the area for years.

The film also stars Lawrence Makoare (Die Another Day, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King), Te Kohe Tuhaka (Sione's 2: Unfinished Business), George Henare (Once Were Warriors), Xavier Horan (My Talks With Dean Spanley,The Dark Horse) and Rena Owen (Once Were Warriors).

Read more Field of Foreign-Language Oscar Contenders Begins to Come Into Focus

The Dead Lands is Fraser’s fourth feature and his third collaboration with New Zealand producer Matthew Metcalfe (My Talks With Dean Spanley, Beyond The Edge, Giselle) for General Film Corporation. The script was penned by Glenn Standring (The Truth About Demons, Perfect Creature). The film was shot in Auckland and the central North Island of New Zealand with post-production in the U.K.

The film is New Zealand’s second ever foreign-language Oscar entry after 2010’s Samoan-language feature, The Orator, made the Academy’s shortlist of foreign feature nominees.

New Zealand’s Oscar selection committee includes Peter Jackson, Fran WalshPhilippa Boyens, David CoulsonNgila Dickson and John Toon and is chaired by Dave Gibson.

The Dead Lands is being released in New Zealand on Oct. 30 by Transmission Films.